Last edited: December 05, 2004

N.C. Gay Rights Groups Applaud Supreme Court’s Sodomy Ruling

Charlotte Observer, June 26, 2003
P. O. Box 2138, Charlotte, NC 28233
Fax: 704-358-5022

By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C.—Gay-rights advocates in North Carolina on Thursday cheered a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a law banning gay sex in Texas. The ruling also appears to label North Carolina’s anti-sodomy law unconstitutional as well.

North Carolina is one of nine states that ban oral and anal sex for both homosexual and unmarried heterosexual couples.

The crime against nature law was unevenly enforced in North Carolina and has been used to deny housing to gay couples or to rule against homosexuals in child custody cases, the advocates said.

“We are just ecstatic that the CAN (crime against nature) law is gone and we will not have to deal with this discrimination,” said Joy Wyrick, executive director for the Equality NC political action committee, a gay-rights group that had sought unsuccessfully for years to get the law changed.

“This ruling very clearly invalidates North Carolina’s law,” she added.

In a 6-3 decision, the high court determined that the Texas law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy by making illegal something that two adults engaged in with full and mutual consent. North Carolina wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the ruling, and Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office was still reviewing it late Thursday.

Cooper said a cursory examination appears to show the “opinion casts serious constitutional doubt on North Carolina’s law.”

Breaking North Carolina’s sodomy law, which includes bestiality, is the lowest grade of felony, usually punished with no jail time but with a one-year maximum prison sentence possible. The law, first approved in 1837, is rarely enforced against couples, and a 1979 state appeals court ruling determined that married couples were exempt.

Cooper said the law is rarely used, most often in prostitution stings or against certain sex offenders. More than 1,300 people statewide were charged with attempting, soliciting or committing a crime against nature, according to court records.

Wyrick said landlords use the law to deny housing to gay couples because they claim doing so would aid and abet a felony. In one high-profile case, a North Carolina judge awarded a woman custody of her two sons after her former husband and his boyfriend testified they had sex.

A senator who has introduced bills over the year to exempt consenting adults from North Carolina’s sodomy law said Thursday’s ruling makes the state law unenforceable.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court made a decision about fairness in the treatment of all citizens and equal protection under the law,” said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange.

Cooper said he would confer with district attorneys before deciding whether law enforcement should continue charging people under the statute. If determined to be unenforceable, the moot law will remain on the books until the General Assembly alters or eliminates it.

Conservative groups have said altering the law would legitimize homosexual behavior as well as unmarried sex, contrary to the morals on which the country was founded. John Rustin with the North Carolina Family Policy Council said it’s unclear how the opinion will affect this state’s law but said the logic in the majority opinion could lead to other unlawful activities being legalized only because they are performed privately.

Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake, said it would be a sad day if the statute were struck down, saying a majority of Americans support the law.

“The law has a valid reason to be there,” Capps said. He declined to elaborate.

Eight Charlotte-area gay-rights organizations, including two churches, also praised the ruling, saying it “is recognition that love, sexuality and family and a person’s privacy play the same role in gay people’s lives as they do for everyone else.”

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